With the Bihar assembly elections only a few months away, Janata Dal chief and chief minister Nitish Kumar has fallen out with two of his most trusted lieutenants – Pavan Varma and Prashant Kishor – who manned the ‘war room’ that managed a thumping victory for him in the last elections in 2015. The apparent bone of contention is Nitish’s decision to fight the polls jointly with the BJP, with which he had a long period of estrangement before he tied up with it in the wake of the joint animosity towards the tie-up between the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal of Lalu Prasad Yadav, whose son now holds the reins in that party. Both Varma and Kishor disapproved of the alliance with the BJP in the upcoming Delhi polls.
Varma had attracted Nitish’s ire recently when he sought ‘ideological clarity’ from him over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the National Population Register (NPR) and the Assam National Register of Citizens (NRC) in view of the ongoing agitation against them. Kishor was on the same wavelength as Varma and had challenged Nitish on this earlier. Piqued at this, Nitish virtually showed the door to Varma when he said he could go where he wants to. Nitish’s anger was all the more because Varma said he knew from private discussions with him that Nitish was very wary of the RSS. Varma was made general secretary of the party and given a seat in the Rajya Sabha at Nitish’s instance. Having been a senior bureaucrat in the IFS, he has no mass base of his own. Kishor too is a shrewd strategist, but has no ostensible mass support.